Suppose I open a bag of serpents, and let them out where children are playing, or in a camp where there are soldiers, and I say of myself, “Madman I fool!” and go to hunt my snakes? I cannot find them. It was mine to let them out, but it is not mine to catch them and put them in the bag again. Now there never was a bag of snakes in this world like a man’s mouth. To open it is in your power, but to shut it again upon all that you have emitted from it is not in your power. I am not referring to cases in which a man himself suffers directly from the evil that he has done; but to those worse cases in which others suffer from the evil that we have done. For, as a man grows spiritual, as a man goes toward God he comes to feel that the mischiefs done on another are unspeakably worse than those done on himself; and that no unrepentable transgressions are as bad as those by which he has struck the welfare of another. Parallel with these, although differing from them, are those things by which men wound the hearts of those whom they should shield. Your anger may sting venomously. Your jealousy may do a mischief in one short hour that your whole life cannot repair. Your cruel pride may do a whole age’s work in a day. You cannot take back the injuries that you have done to those whose hearts lie throbbing next to yours. All! when winter has frozen my heliotropes, it makes no difference that the next morning thaws them out. There lie the heliotropes — a black, noisome heap; and it is possible for you to chill a tender nature so that no thawing can restore it. You may relent, but frost has been there, and you cannot bring back freshness and fragrance to the blossom. You cannot sweeten the embittered heart to which your words have been like scorpions. It is a terrible thing for a man to have the power of poisoning the hearts of others, and yet carry that power carelessly.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Big H/T to Zabeth ❤